It will forever be “The Kick” in the minds of every Minnesota football fan.
Dan Nystrom’s 32-yard field goal last November — which gave the Gophers a last-second win over second-ranked Penn State — is still the brightest star in Minnesota’s rebuilding year.
It also remains a bright star for Nystrom.
“It was an exciting moment in the season and my career,” Nystrom said. “Every time I look at it I get chills.”
Come Saturday, however, the star will temporarily burn out. Minnesota coach Glen Mason said Nystrom and the Gophers (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) will need to focus on Penn State without a thought of last years heroics.
“I know I haven’t brought up last years game,” Mason said. “I can’t tell you what coach (Joe) Paterno’s doing, but I’ve always thought what happens one year has very little significance on what happens the next.”
The only significance “The Kick” might carry into the Metrodome is as a motivational tool used by the Lions legendary coach. Although, at this point in the season, motivation is the last thing Penn State should need.
First, the Lions are off to a 2-4 (1-1 Big Ten) start — the school’s worst since 1965, the year before Paterno became the head coach in Happy Valley.
Second, they’re playing for a fallen teammate — cornerback Adam Taliaferro — who suffered a spinal injury in the final minutes of Penn State’s loss to Ohio State on Sept. 23.
Paterno said Taliaferro is breathing on his own and is in stable condition at a Philadelphia hospital. But news remains bleak.
“It will be a miracle if he ever walks again,” Paterno said. “We’re all praying for him.”
With the Lions playing to avenge last years loss and this years frustration and heartbreak, the Gophers will have their hands full on Saturday.
Mason said the Gophers can’t take the Lions poor record and automatically put the check in the win column.
“If anybody thinks this is a down year for Penn State talent wise, they are mistaken,” Mason said.
“All of us deal with perceptions. All of the sudden here Penn State is at 2-4, and you think they aren’t good. I don’t agree.”
To QB or not to QB
For seemingly the tenth consecutive day, Mason was asked once again at Tuesday’s luncheon if he knew who was going to start at quarterback and running back on Saturday.
And once again, Mason answered with the usual — whoever he thinks gives the Gophers the best chance of winning. He did shed a little light, however.
“If we were playing Penn State at 3:30 (Tuesday), (Travis) Cole would start at quarterback and (Tellis) Redmon at tailback,” Mason said. “But I always reserve the right to change my mind.”
ù As he knocked on the table, Mason reported no injuries came out of the Illinois game.
ù A crowd of 42-44,000 is expected for Saturday’s 11:10 kickoff at the Metrodome.
John R. Carter covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]